Thomas Jonathan "Stonewall" Jackson, 1824 - 1863
Portrait at Spotsylvania County, Virginia (26 April 1863)
Born: 21 January 1824, Clarksburg, Virginia (now West Virginia)
Died: 10 May 1863, Guinea Station, Virginia
Thomas Jackson's father and sister died two years after he was born. His mother's ill health and her second husband's dislike of his stepchildren meant thew were raised by different family members, Thomas received very little education. At age eleven he ran away from his assigned aunt to live on Cummins Jackson's farm, herding sheep, educating himself (while illegally teaching a slave to write), and in his last years there was a school teacher. When he started at West Point in 1842 he struggled at the bottom of his class, he graduated 17 out of 59. His classmates said that in another year he would have been first. He immediately was sent off to the Mexican-American War, during which he was the most promoted officer in the army. It was at Mexico City that he first considered religion and found a deep religious faith, becoming a Presbyterian. Although he certainly shared the general opinion that white were superior to blacks, he and his wife started a Sunday School for "coloreds" to help improve them, teaching and paying for the program himself, and on at least two occasions slaves asked him to buy them at auction knowing his fair treatment and that they could earn their way to freedom. He became a professor at the Virginia Military Institute, returning to service as a drill master to raw recruits when the war started ten years later and commanding a brigade at Harpers Ferry. At the first battle of Bull Run he held his troops steady, "standing like a stone wall". This was apparently not said in admiration, but by another general who was under attack and would have preferred Jackson depart from the plan to aid his unit, but the name stuck. He was Lee's most trusted and most effective general until two years later when he was shot by his own forces, they didn't recognize his party returning after dark following the Battle of Chancellorsville, a few days after this portrait was taken. His left arm was amputated but pneumonia had set in, he died in the near-by plantation office where he was taken to recuperate.
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Stonewall Jackson quotes:
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- A defensive campaign can only be made successful by taking the aggressive at the proper time. Napoleon never waited for his adversary to become fully prepared, but struck him the first blow. permalink
Life and Letters of General Thomas J. Jackson (1891)
- All I am and all I have is at the service of my country. permalink
- Always mystify, mislead, and surprise the enemy, if possible; and when you strike and overcome him, never let up in the pursuit so long as your men have strength to follow; for an army routed, if hotly pursued, becomes panic-stricken, and can then be destroyed by half their number. permalink
- Arms is a profession that, if its principles are adhered to for success, requires an officer do what he fears may be wrong and yet, according to military experience, must be done, if success is to be attained. permalink
Letter to his wife (1862)
- Close up, men, close up; push on, push on. permalink
- Don't say it's impossible! Turn your command over to the next officer. If he can't do it, I'll find someone who can, even if I have to take him from the ranks! permalink
- Duty is ours; consequences are God's. permalink
- I am in favor of making a thorough trial for peace, and if we fail in this and our state is invaded, to defend it with terrific resistance. permalink
Letter to his nephew (January 1861)
- I am more afraid of King Alcohol than of all the bullets of the enemy. permalink
- I had rather lose one man in marching than five in fighting. permalink
- I like liquor — its taste and its effects — and that is just the reason why I never drink it. permalink
- I see from the number of physicians that you think my condition dangerous, but I thank God, if it is His will, that I am ready to go. permalink
On his deathbed (10 May 1863)
- I yield to no man in sympathy for the gallant men under my command; but I am obliged to sweat them tonight, so that I may save their blood tomorrow. permalink
To Colonel Sam Fulkerson (24 May 1862)
- If officers desire to have control over their commands, they must remain habitually with them, industriously attend to their instruction and comfort, and in battle lead them well. permalink
- If you desire to be more heavenly minded, think more of the things of heaven, and less of the things of earth. permalink
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